Jan 20, 2012

A Severe Blow to Anti-Piracy Bill in US Congress

Following a seemingly worldwide internet protest on the 18th January 2012, support for the controversial ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) and ‘Protect Intellectual Property Act’ (PIPA) stalled abruptly as eight members of Congress withdrew their support for the bills. SOPA has long been the source of tremendous controversy on the Internet due to its implications for the creative community on the web. The main source of the controversy related to an empowering of industries to call upon website operators, asking them to censor material that their claimed was their intellectual property. The proposal would implement a system of DNS filtering, whereby Internet users in the United States would have certain domains made entirely unavailable to them if these were reported as containing material in breach of intellectual property rights. Thus the entire website, and not merely the infringing content, would be blocked.

This measure was considered as being very heavy handed even by some entities in the film, music and video-game industry who would be the main beneficiaries of the bills.

Following a Wikipedia and WordPress blackout on the 18th of January, emulating the effects that this legislation could have had on the Internet, no less than eight Congress persons withdrew their support for the bill. Although social networks and Google have also vocally opposed the bill, they did not remove their services as Wikipedia and WordPress did; but the latter joined in the protest in a more pacifistic manner by blacking out their logo when users in the United States logged onto their websites.

The process of passing SOPA has effectively come to a grinding halt as more and more members of Congress are proposing better implementation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as well as analysing the situation further. As for the issue of foreign websites offering pirated material, it is being proposed that rather than blocking off the sites, new methods and sanctions would be devised to cut off funding for such websites.

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